Re-gifting Dos and Don'ts

Now that Christmas is over (thank you, Jesus) and New Year's Eve is but a flash of disconnected hallucinations, it's time to let your facial muscles recover from the agonizing strain of faking holiday cheer and take an appraising look at some of the useless junk you received from well-meaning friends and family members whose gift choices might make you wonder if they really know you at all.

For example, I hate musicals, so why did I get a two-CD set of Andrea Bocelli crooning show tunes? Does my grandmother really think I will ever be caught dead wearing a hot pink V-necked sweater? (Who gives a guy pink anything anyway?) Other items on my re-gifting list this year are a pair of ill-fitting slippers adorned with cavorting chimpanzees (I don't wear slippers), a fifty-dollar gift certificate to the Olive Garden (Seriously?) and an illustrated coffee table book about Japanese Kabuki Theater (Say what? I didn't even like The Book of Mormon and that was in English.).

These are the kinds of presents that require you to gush with counterfeit delight as you exclaim through gritted teeth, "I've always wanted one of those!"

Forget returning it because there's no receipt and you won't know where the item was purchased unless you ask, an obvious tip-off. There's always Goodwill, but who wants to subject themselves to the mocking, sardonic looks from the Goodwill people who want to say, "Re-gift them, idiot."

They would be right. You'd have to be an idiot not to re-gift. It's both frugal (read, cheap) and environmentally sound (a lame rationalization, but there's enough crap in landfills), and who wants to schlep around finding gifts for people when you already have them?

Of course, the biggest danger is getting caught. People will think you're a slimy, ungracious asshole, which would be dead-on accurate. The only upside is that your rude behavior might convince them to give you cash next time.

But re-gifting can be dangerous territory.

For example, if you don't keep a list of who gave you what, there is a distinct possibility that you might re-gift something to the person who originally gave it to you. That would be embarrassing and the only way to get out of looking like a jerk is to say something unconvincing like, "I loved it so much, I decided to give you one."

Then there's the possibility, albeit unlikely, that you will be the end recipient of something you'd re-gifted years ago. In other words, if you received a red Snuggie from your secretary and you re-gift it to your Aunt Bertha and she re-gifts it to her dentist and he re-gifts it to his wife who re-gifts it to her good friend, your Cousin Flo, and she re-gifts it to you, you have to start the whole ludicrous process all over again.

Wait awhile before re-gifting. If you actually did receive an unsightly pink sweater from your grandmother, she might be suspicious if you don't wear it at least once in her presence. You should say something like, "I wear it all the time, Grammy!" The next time you see her, fake a forlorn look and tell her your new puppy urinated all over it. And pray that she doesn't take pity on you and show up with a new one on your next birthday. Having to perform the same bogus ecstasy ritual over the same item is just plain tedious.

Obviously, the item must be in pristine condition. Keep that coffee table book off the coffee table -- if a bored guest leafs through it, cracks the spine or dog-ears a page, you're toast. Keep items in their packages if possible. If a gift-giver insists that you try on a shirt, put it on carefully and be sure to save all the pins and tags. Do not open those molded plastic packages that are impossible to open. Make a show of struggling with it, let out a groan of frustration and say you'll open it later when you can borrow the neighbor's Jaws of Life or purchase some low-grade explosives.

And just for fun, take a picture of the re-giftee's face as he or she attempts to disguise the very same expression of horror you so expertly masked when you originally opened it.